Karl Marx City Screen 81 of 8 reviews

Karl Marx City

2016

Karl Marx City Poster
  • Some of it is a straight talking-heads documentary, and none the worse for it: The contextual background filled in by historians and a highly perceptive expert on the wave of suicides during and after the GDR is essential viewing... In its efforts to be artful, Karl Marx City suffers now and then from the same breathy tendency to overdramatize already incendiary material that marred Epperlein and Tucker's Gunner Palace... That said, the story of Epperlein's family tragedy is enormously moving.

  • More than a movie about one family’s history, or even about one country’s history, this is a fascinating conversation about history itself, the very act of forgetting, and the persistence of memory.

  • History has given “Karl Marx City” — a chilling documentary about the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police — the perfect icon for a legacy of oppression. In exploring the mystery of her father’s suicide in 1999, Petra Epperlein returns to her roots in Chemnitz and uncovers meaningful links between his story and the stories of many under Stasi watch.

  • In the years since his suicide, a suspicion has bugged the family: Did their father, in fact, work with the Stasi, the powerful secret police that turned East Germany into the most paranoid and efficient surveillance state in the world? This is the question that drives Karl Marx City, an essayistic and very effective documentary by Epperlein and Michael Tucker, her husband and co-director on earlier films like Gunner Palace and Fightville.

  • It's an essayistic, quietly moving look at another lost world, the former East Germany, where Ms. Epperlein grew up. The narration comes off as a needless, distracting device — an attempt at distancing. (It’s narrated by a woman who refers to Ms. Epperlein in the third person.) But the movie draws you in quickly with its intelligence, its restrained emotions and its jaw-dropping period material, which includes some wildly creepy Stasi surveillance imagery.

  • The climactic revelation of the father's file gains its biggest impact in the reaction of his family reading it, eliciting the layers of horror and revulsion wrought by living so long under the weight of rumor and insinuation. In their catharsis lies the closest thing to healing that one can glean from such a brutal legacy.

  • An impressive outing from the pair who made the rather shambolic Gunner Palaceback in 2004, Karl Marx City is that rarest of objects: an exploration of family history that avoids solipsism and manages to connect the personal to much broader things.

  • [The directors] raise intriguing ideas about memory and surveillance. Citizens of the German Democratic Republic were the most spied-upon in all of history; who knows how much longer this ignominious record will stand? But, as too often happens in nonfiction movies, their exploration of these concepts is undermined by ill-considered execution.

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